By: Matthew Terry
Ahh, now here’s the write up everyone’s been waiting for! The Greatest Conference on the face of the Earth! The conference so awesome that it has “Fun” in the name! It’s the Fun Belt (not really, but go with it). Now, seriously, the Sun Belt tournament starts on March 10, and it’s going to be the most fun tournament to watch for lots of reasons. First off, this tournament is held in the only place in the United States that can hold this much fun, this much excitement, and this much wildness, and no it’s not in Gary, Indiana. This tournament will be held in the great city of New Orleans, Louisiana! The Crescent City, the French Quarter, just imagine a fun night of walking down Bourbon Street after watching South Alabama and Georgia Southern go at in an intense Sun Belt thriller. Second, this conference is the same one that brought us the most memorable shot of March Madness last year, RJ Hunter’s buzzer beater so beautiful it made his own father fall out of the chair he was sitting in. Who doesn’t have an irrational love for Georgia State after that win (I know I do)? But for really though, this conference is yet another one that will most likely only have one team in the tournament. Whether that’s the #1 seed Little Rock or the #8 seed South Alabama, these teams will most likely need to win it all to want to go dancing. So who’s competing?
The by far favorite to win this tournament is Arkansas-Little Rock. UALR finished 27-4 on the season (however none of those wins against AP Top 25, just like the rest of the conference). UALR went 17-3 in conference and featured an incredibly defense that gave up just 59.8 points per game, good for 3rd in the conference. UALR ended the season on a sour note, however, losing their last game on the road to the Appalachian State (that school with the football team that beat Michigan once.) Little Rock features the Sun Belt coach of the Year, Chris Beard, and a team that only lost one conference game. UALR’s schedule is the only thing that keeps them from being a lock in tournament, and their defense makes them a fun team to watch come March. The other team with a double bye into the semi-finals of the Sun Belt tournament is Louisiana-Monroe. Monroe’s poor road record will hinder them in this tournament, only winning 6 games away from Fant-Ewing Coliseum.
The No. 3 and 4 seeds in this tournament are the two teams with the best offenses in the Sun Belt, UT-Arlington and Louisiana-Lafayette. Arlington’s notable for being the only team in the conference to average 80 points a game, and Lafayette’s notable because their logo looks like it belongs on a bottle of hot sauce. Seriously. And they’re called the Ragin Cajuns. You have to cheer for Louisiana-Lafayette for those reasons alone. Those teams, along with the two previously mentioned, are the main ones that are favorites to win this tournament.
Now, the Sun Belt is weird. It’s fun, but it’s also weird. Not everyone makes the tournament in the Sun Belt, because the Sun Belt is also mean and doesn’t want everyone to feel included, which is the entire point of the Sun Belt’s existence (at least in football). The bottom four seeds in this tournament are Georgia Southern, with Sun Belt freshman of the year Tookie Brown (his name is seriously Tookie. I love this conference), Georgia State (sadly, no RJ Hunter this year), Texas State and South Alabama.
My pick to win this tournament is Arkansas Little Rock for obvious reasons. Top defense, best record in the league, and the only team in the conference with double digit wins away from their home arena.